The most striking thing in the basement of Zuby Johal are the many body parts: two grotesque heads, four hands in different colors and sizes and several stray fingers. They do not cause rejection or fear, but awe. Because the details in them, including the folds on the ankles and the frown on the brows, make Zuby's work known in the making. However, it points out that it is rejected or incomplete works. Perhaps it was because the craftsmanship was obvious – good prosthetic artist creation hides the effort put into it. Like an experienced magician's trick, it deceives you into believing that it is real. And Zuby's works can achieve this level of truthfulness. For example, the censorship authorities refused to believe until they wrote that the cat was inside Find Fanny was prosthetics. The same could be said about her other work, including that of Gang of Wasseypur movies, Uyare. Tumbbad, and ghost stories (using foam latex that is rarely used in India),
Zuby, who runs the Dirty Hands Studio together with her partner Rajiv Subba (both graduates of the National Institute of Design for Ceramic and Glass Design), reports on her work.
Prostheses are used in films of all genres these days. It is not only used to make a young person look old. All cuts, wounds, scars, pregnant bellies are prostheses.
Can you talk about the makeup process?
In most cases it is a collaboration. After reading the script, we do the research. For example in [Dibakar Banerjee’s segment of] Ghost Stories, we researched evolution because we created a creature that's half human, half animal. Then a lot of back and forth happens with the director. With Photoshop we make some illustrations of the final look. It makes life easier for both of us – the director knows exactly what he is getting and I know what I am doing.
As soon as we have finished the look, we start with the sculptor stage. If I have to put the prosthesis on you, I could need a living shape of your face and convert it into fibers. Then I model the fiber face. Then we add the textures according to the age of the character and any cuts or wounds. For example, in Ghost Stories we mixed six shades of dyed natural hair to get the look we wanted for the creature.
Prosthetic makeup is obvious when there is an extraordinary character like a zombie (in ghost stories) or a 300 year old oracle (Raabta). But you worked like in films Gang of Wasseypur and UyareThey are also more rooted in reality. How often is prosthetic makeup used in films these days?
Not so much until 2008. But since then, I would say there has been an increase of 80%. Prostheses are used in films of all genres these days. It is not only used to make a young person look old. All cuts, wounds, scars, pregnant bellies are prostheses.
You worked in a low budget film like Tumbbad and a big like fan, What are the differences between the two?
in the fanWe had to create a Shah Rukh Khan mannequin for the Madame Tussauds scene. However, the museum did not allow a mannequin to be placed there from the outside. So it was not used. And, Tumbbad was an enriching experience. There were many innovations for us. We hadn't made any bodysuits before. So we learned by trying it out. Indeed, while working for ghost storiesI have Mitesh Shah (the screenwriter of Tumbbad) that we could have done certain things differently. With the experience we have now, we could have given a much better output. But I learn from my mistakes.
Well, the budget makes a difference. In films with a large budget, you have a lot more time to work on the details because you can hire more specialists. But it's not just about money. It's also about what the director wants. So the idea is important.
You haven't worked on a biopic yet. But will it be more difficult to work on a character in the real world?
No, biographies will actually be very simple since you already know what the person looks like. All you have to do is recreate that person's shape. We made a Gandhiji mannequin that moves the chakra (using animatronics) at Gandhi Teerth in Jalgaon, Maharashtra.
There was a time when the directors outsourced prosthetic makeup from abroad. Well, including you, there are several specialists who have worked in many films. What has changed now?
It has to do with the changing nature of the films that came out. [During the late 2000s]We saw directors like Anurag Kashyap make content-driven films. Until then it was only the star vehicles, love stories, comedies. But through films like Gang of WasseypurThere were new opportunities. There was this new wave of directors and different films. Things like wounds and cuts had to look natural. And with more emphasis on animal rights, we have to recreate an entire animal these days. But I see more talented prostheticians in the industry. You should get a chance. We no longer have to outsource our work.
What are you currently working on?
Dear Aaj Kal 2 [directed by Imitial Ali] is set for publication. Otherwise we are working on AK vs AK (by Vikramaditya Motwane). There is also a Yash Raj Films project and some things we do for Amazon Prime and Netflix. But after that UyareI like to work on more South Indian films. This is one of the reasons why I decided to stay in Bangalore despite a lot of Bollywood films.